For a few short weeks each year, Elkmont Ghost Town in Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee becomes the site of a magnificent synchronized firefly gathering. Resembling an odd forest rave party, male fireflies enter the mating season by flashing their lights brightly several times in unison for about ten seconds, followed by a eight to twelve second darkness in which females may respond with their lights.
Overwhelmed by the tourist onslaught in the recent years, National Park Service now restricts the number of people who visit Elkmont during the peak of firefly season. Fireflies require total darkness to mate and humans who use flashlights, as well as produce any any other form of light pollution, have led to decrease of fireflies across the world. National Park Service has responded through strict lighting regulations in Smoky Mountains National Park which prohibit use of lights which may disturb and drive out the fireflies from the park.
This video, which premiered on BBC Earth, was filmed as part of SKYGLOW, an ongoing crowdfunded quest to explore the effects and dangers of urban light pollution in contrast with some of the most incredible Dark Sky Preserves in North America.
Bottom line: SKYGLOW’s video, ‘Elkmont Symphony’ is a timelapse journey through Smoky Mountains National Park during world’s largest gathering of synchronized fireflies.
Eleanor Imster has helped write and edit EarthSky since 1995. She was an integral part of the award-winning EarthSky radio series almost since it began until it ended in 2013. Today, as Lead Editor at EarthSky.org, she helps present the science and nature stories and photos you enjoy. She also serves as one of the voices of EarthSky on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and G+. She and her husband live in Tennessee and have two grown sons.